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Authors: Dan Gutman

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9
Vowel Movements and the Third Degree

I was all mixed up. I was in love with Mrs. Cooney and wanted to grow up and marry her. But what if she was secretly a spy who was selling information to some guy who wanted to take over the world? I was starting to feel sick. I mean
really
sick. Not fake sick.

“A.J., you don't look good,” Miss Daisy said. “Do you need to go to the nurse's office?”

“No!” I said. “Not that! I'm fine.”

“A.J., I want you to go to the nurse's office,” Miss Daisy said. “Now.”

So I went to Mrs. Cooney's office.

“Hi, A.J.,” she said cheerfully. “Feeling a little under the weather?”

“No. I feel fine,” I said. “Can I go back to class?”

“Not so fast.”

Oh no. She was going to have me stand on my head or juggle Ping-Pong balls or put her Beanie Babies in ABC order. Or something equally weird.

“I want to ask you a few questions,” said Mrs. Cooney. “When was your last bowel movement?”

Huh? I didn't quite hear what she said. Bowel movement? What's that? I didn't know what a bowel was, so how could I possibly know if it moved? I didn't want Mrs. Cooney to know that I didn't know what a bowel movement was.

Maybe she said “vowel movement.” That would make more sense. Vowels move all the time. But I didn't know
which vowel she was talking about.


A
?” I guessed.

“I said when was your last bowel movement?” Mrs. Cooney asked.


Y
?” I asked.

“Why?” said Mrs. Cooney. “Because that will help me know what's wrong with you.”

I didn't know what vowels had to do with what was wrong with me.


I-O-U
,” I said.

“You owe me
what
?” Mrs. Cooney asked. “A.J., can you please just answer my questions? What did you have for breakfast today?”

That's when it hit me. Mrs. Cooney was
doing what all those cops do with bad guys. She was giving me the third degree. What if I told her some important piece of top secret information? And what if she sold it to that bad guy who wants to take over the world? And what if that guy took over the world?

It would be my fault!

The fate of the whole world was on my shoulders!

I decided that I wasn't going to give Mrs. Cooney any information. I didn't care how beautiful she was. I wouldn't answer any of her questions, even if she shined that head lice light in my eyes.

“A.J., did you eat breakfast this
morning?” Mrs. Cooney asked.

“That's for me to know and you to find out,” I said, crossing my arms in front of me.

“I beg your pardon?” Mrs. Cooney said.

“I have the right to remain silent,” I said.

“A.J., I only asked you if you ate breakfast.”

“That's classified information,” I replied. “Who wants to know? I want a lawyer.”

“Don't be silly, A.J.”

“Are you going to torture me?” I asked. “That's what they do in the movies.”

“A.J., you're acting very strangely today,” Mrs. Cooney said.

Oh, she thinks
I'm
strange! She puts bags of frozen vegetables on kids' heads and makes them balance yardsticks. But
I'm
strange!

By the time Mrs. Cooney let me go back to class, school was over. All the kids were gone. Miss Daisy gave me my backpack and told me what we had to do for homework.

But that night I couldn't do my homework. I had too much on my mind.

I hate to admit that Andrea is right about anything, but she just might be right about Mrs. Cooney. What if she really is a spy? How could I marry her? And yet, she was so beautiful.

All night long I was tossing and turning in my bed.

10
I Thought She Was Gonna Die


Now
are you convinced, A.J.?” Andrea asked, taking a big bite of her apple.

Me and Ryan and Michael were sitting around the vomitorium talking about Mrs. Cooney. It was so important that we even let Andrea and Emily sit at our table.

All the evidence seemed to show that Mrs. Cooney was a spy. Still, I wasn't sure.

“My mom says people are innocent until they're proven guilty,” I said.

“Mrs. Cooney is guilty, A.J.!” Andrea said, getting up and waving her arms around. “What do you need to do, catch her—”

But Andrea couldn't finish that sentence, because at that very moment, the most amazing thing in the history of the world happened.

Andrea started choking.

“What's the matter?” Emily asked.

Andrea couldn't talk. She was gagging.

“She's got something caught in her
throat!” Ryan said.

We all looked at the half-eaten apple in Andrea's hand. She was gasping, trying to breathe. I looked at Ryan. Ryan looked at Michael. Michael looked at Emily. Andrea dropped the apple.

“We've got to do something!” shouted Emily, and she went running out of the vomitorium.

I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do. I had to think fast.

Suddenly I remembered that poster I saw on the wall of Mrs. Cooney's office. The one with the cartoon of a kid choking.

“Quick!” I said. “Somebody punch Andrea in the stomach!”

“Are you crazy?” Michael said. “We'll get in trouble!”

“If you punch her in the stomach, the apple will come out!” I shouted.

“I had to stay after school the time I shot spitballs at her,” Ryan said. “I'm not
punching her in the stomach.”

“It was your idea, A.J.,” said Michael. “
You
punch her in the stomach.”

I always wanted to punch Andrea, come to think of it. I grabbed her from behind like the guy did in the poster. Then I rammed both of my fists against her stomach.

The chunk of apple shot out of Andrea's mouth and bounced off Ryan's head.

Andrea started to breathe again.

“A.J., you saved my life!” she said. Then she gave me a hug.

“Oooh!” Ryan said. “A.J. and Andrea are in
love
!”

Emily came running into the vomitorium with Mrs. Cooney, who was carrying her first-aid kit.

“What happened?” shouted Mrs. Cooney. “Are you okay, Andrea?”

“I am
now
,” Andrea said. “I had a piece of apple caught in my throat, but A.J. knew what to do. He probably saved my life.”

“Wow!” said Mrs. Cooney. “You're a real hero, A.J.!”

“It was nothing, really,” I said.

Then Mrs. Cooney gave me a hug.

“Oooh!” Ryan said. “A.J. and Mrs. Cooney are in
love
!”

“Shut up!” I told Ryan.

11
The Stakeout

“Meet me by the monkey bars at three o'clock,” Andrea whispered as she passed my desk. “I've got a plan.”

When I got to the playground after school, Ryan and Michael were there. So were Andrea and Emily. Andrea looked around to make sure nobody else could hear us.

“I overheard Mrs. Cooney talking to Principal Klutz,” Andrea said. “She's going to be in her office at seven o'clock tonight.”

“So what?” Ryan asked.

“So we can catch her in the act, dumbhead!” Andrea said.

“We can peek in the window of the nurse's office,” said Emily.

“I'll bring my camera,” Michael said. “We can use the pictures as evidence.”

“Smart thinking,” said Andrea.

It sounded like a good idea. But there was one problem. Even though I only live a block from school, my mom wasn't going to let me go out by myself at night. I didn't want to tell everybody that,
because I didn't want them calling me a baby.

When I got home, I told my mom that, oh, by the way, I have to go over to school after dinner.

“What for?” my mom asked.

“It's a secret,” I said. “We're making presents for Mother's Day.”

I don't usually like to lie. But my mother once told me that sometimes it's okay to lie. Like when your grandma gives you a present, you have to say you like it no matter how horrible and disgusting it is.

The fate of the world was on my shoulders. I figured this was one of those
times it was okay to lie.

“Mother's Day, eh?” said Mom, all smiles. “Okay. But you be careful crossing the street.”

It was drizzling a little when I got to school. It didn't look like anyone else was around. But then I heard somebody call out, “In here!”

I looked in the bushes under Mrs. Cooney's window. Michael and Ryan and Andrea and Emily were huddled in there.

“Shh!” Andrea said. “Mrs. Cooney isn't here yet.”

“We should synchronize our watches,” Ryan said.

“What does that mean?” asked Emily.

“How should I know?” Ryan said. “But they always do that in the movies.”

None of us had watches, but it didn't matter because at that very instant a car came around the corner and pulled up to the curb in front of the school.

“Wow, a Jaguar!” said Michael, who knows a lot about cars.

“Spies always drive cool cars,” said Ryan.

The car stopped and somebody got out.

“Look, it's her!” we all said. “It's Mrs. Cooney!”

“And she's wearing a trench coat!” Ryan said. “Spies always wear trench coats.”

“Maybe she's wearing a trench coat because it's raining,” I said.

“She's got a briefcase, too,” Ryan said. “Spies always carry briefcases.”

Mrs. Cooney walked around to the front door of the school. It wasn't long until the light went on in the nurse's office over our heads.

The window was a little too high for us to look inside. Michael and Ryan got down on their hands and knees, and I climbed up on their backs. I was holding on to the windowsill with my hands. I could just barely see when I stood on my tiptoes.

“Do you see anything?” Emily asked.

“Mrs. Cooney is looking in her file cabinet,” I said.

“Spies are always looking in file cabinets,” Ryan said. “That's where they store their secret information.”

“A.J.,” Michael said, “your foot is tickling my back!”

“What do you want me to do?” I asked. I had one foot on Ryan's back and the other foot on Michael's back. But Michael was wriggling around. It was hard to stand.

“Move your foot a little to the left,” Michael said.

So I did. But when I moved my foot to the left, Michael moved a little to the
right. And when I put my foot down on his back, his back wasn't there anymore. Nothing was there anymore.

My hand slipped off the wet windowsill. And the next thing I knew, I was flat on my back on the ground.

“Ow!” I screamed. “My elbow is broken! I think I'm going to die!”

“Shh!” Andrea said. “Mrs. Cooney will hear you!”

She must have heard me, because about a second later the window opened. Mrs. Cooney poked her head out.

“What's going on down there?” Mrs. Cooney asked.

“We, uh, lost our ball,” Michael said.
“We were playing with it and it must have rolled under this bush.”

“A.J.,” said Mrs. Cooney. “Why are you lying on the ground?”

“I'm, uh, relaxing,” I explained.

“There's blood on your elbow,” Mrs. Cooney said.

“I'll wash it off when I get home,” I said.

“Nothing doing,” said Mrs. Cooney. “I'll be out in a minute and clean you up. You're under my supervision now.”

“Did you hear that?” I said. “Mrs. Cooney has super vision!”

“That means she can see through walls!” Ryan said.

“Wow!” Michael said. “She's not only a spy, but she's got super powers, too!”

That was the last straw, as they say. I decided right then and there that I could not marry Mrs. Cooney no matter what.

Mrs. Cooney came running over with her first-aid kit.

“What are you kids doing here at this hour?” she asked as she started cleaning the blood off my elbow with a cloth.

“We might ask
you
the same question, Mrs. Cooney,” I said, “or whatever your
real
name is.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked. “I had some work to do. So many kids have been sick lately, I haven't been able to get my work done during the day.”

“Spy work, no doubt,” Andrea said.

“What?” asked Mrs. Cooney as she sprayed some stinging stuff on my elbow.

“Don't play dumb,” I said. “We caught
you, like a rat in a trap! Oh, you had us fooled for a while. But we were just too smart for you.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” said Mrs. Cooney.

“That's what they all say,” I said. “Tell it to the police.”

“You kids are crazy,” Mrs. Cooney said. “Do your parents know you're here?”

“Don't change the subject,” I said. “You're a spy and you're going to sell our secrets to some evil guy who wants to take over the world!”

“Are you out of your minds?” asked Mrs. Cooney. “I had to work late.”

“You'll have plenty of time to work late
where you're going, Mrs. Cooney,” I said. “They're gonna throw you in the slammer.”

“What's a slammer?” asked Ryan.

“How should I know?” I said. “But that's where they throw spies after they catch them.”

Mrs. Cooney finished cleaning off the cut on my elbow. She put a Sesame Street Band-Aid on it.

“Okay, okay,” she said. “I admit it. You're right. It's all true. I am a spy. Now let's go home.”

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